When I first agreed to go into the classroom as a volunteer speaker for Spectrum, Marin’s LGBT Center, I was terrified. What in the world did I have to say that would make a difference to these kids? I stood up there for the first time and looked into the faces of 20 teenage kids from Bolinas-Stinson school. Many of them I recognized, either from surfing at the nearby beach or from coaching soccer. They stared back at me with blank expressions as I told them about my life. Soon, they were laughing at my ridiculous stories and when they began to relax, so did I. They seemed to relate to me—after all, I had grown up in Marin much like they had and I wasn’t much different from their parents, so what was the big deal anyway?
Being an out lesbian in my community has been an adventure. After growing up in Marin, I returned ‘out and proud‘ after college and moved into a house with some old high school friends. I was soon to find myself being called “dyke” while walking down the street with my new girlfriend. So I moved to San Francisco for 20 years to surround myself with a queer community. It was a great place for my partner and I to enjoy our young adulthood and eventually raise kids. When they got a little older, we decided to bring them back “home” to enjoy a more rural experience. I soon discovered that Marin could still use some education around LGBT issues—awareness for starters.
For a while, I wasn’t ready to step up and do much about it besides being an out parent, coach, and community member. When we first arrived in Marin my older son was just starting middle school and he came home his first day in shock at how many times he heard ‘You Fag!’ on the playground. This didn’t happen at his school in San Francisco! Even as the new kid he refused to hear it and created a little bubble of friends that didn’t speak that way. He even went on to write his college essay about how he dealt with the unacceptability of gay slurs within the school system. He inspired me! And with all the recent gay teen suicides, I began to feel like maybe I could do more. Maybe kids who were questioning their sexual preference could relate to me. I wondered how I might have felt if someone like me had come into my classroom when I was in high school. It might have made me feel like I wasn’t the only lesbian I knew of. So, after the break-up of my long-term relationship, I was suddenly ready to some try new things that I hadn’t done before. Going into the classroom really scared me, but it was a challenge I was ready to face. Its been incredibly rewarding and we get invited into more and more classrooms every year.
Sometimes I bring in transgender people to help shake things up. My friend Michelle served as a male in Vietnam and successfully transitioned 30 years ago. She is a badass and the kids are always very impressed. The boys ask questions like “what kind of gun did you use?” which is so awesome because they forget about her being a transgendered person and just seem to think she is cool.
The best moment ever was when they asked me to go into my younger son’s freshman high school class. I said “You are kidding me!” So I asked him if he was OK with that. His response was this: “Yes Mommy, those kids need to hear you”.
Check out this video that some of my son’s classmates made for a class project.